Are Today’s Students Tamer Than Their Predecessors?
By Les Shaver
If today’s students care more about studying than socializing, housing operators need to build and program their communities to meet that desire.
Are the wild Animal House days on America’s college campuses a thing of the past?
They probably aren’t entirely, but many of today’s students prefer peace and quiet, according to the executives who visited the Listening Lab at CampusConnex. Many guests to the lab commented that students—some of whom come to college from academically rigorous high schools—are often on a “mission” to graduate in four years.
“The quiet enjoyment of their home is more important to college students than it ever was before,” says Mike Still, Senior Vice President of Operations for the Collier Cos. “Five or 10 years ago, students were looking for a place to have fun, and really be social with their friends. Now, they want to know that their homes are going to be quiet.”
Today’s students not only have high expectations for academic success, but they also have strong preferences about their housing.
“When I was in college, we generally had very low housing expectations, because we knew that there were very few options or alternatives available to us. I was either going to live in a pretty bad dorm or I’d be renting an old, run-down house or garage apartment,” says Kevin Howe, Senior Vice President, Operations at Landmark Properties. “Now, today’s student customer is coming in with very high expectations and several options. If those expectations are not met, or if we fall short at any given point, they’ve got open mic [through social media and online reviews] to call us out on it. We also have an evolving change with parenting. Parents are reinforcing that high expectation, and often speaking on behalf of their sons or daughters.”
To meet demands, Howe says students housing operators need to be “on point.” Part of that is providing a place where students can meet their academic goals in peace and comfort.
It starts with roommates. “They’re not looking for a friend to party with,” Still says. “They’re looking for somebody who is respectful of their space.”
That need for quiet space extends to amenity choices.
“Their amenity choices are not the crazy pool parties necessarily,” Still says. “It is the study rooms and fitness centers. We have a clubhouse right now that we’re about to redo, and it only has one gym. We’re taking some of the clubhouse space just to make a second gym.”
Students’ desire to learn is also factoring into Collier’s programming. “Right now, we’re looking to start doing more educational-type of experiences for our residents,” Still says.
For instance, Still says one community in Oklahoma offers book clubs. “They're actually doing one that our [industry’s] culture is heavily based on, ‘The Seven Habits of Highly effective people,’ ” he says. “They’re giving out that book and bringing everybody in to talk about it. They’re getting great returns on that program. A lot of people are interested in those types of things. Students really want to connect on a scholastic level.”